- Fallacies of Distraction
- Argument from Ignorance Burden of Proof
- Slippery Slope
- False Dilemma Black and White Thinking
- Complex Question
- Missing the Point
- Question Begging Petito Principii, Circular Reasoning
- Straw man
- Motives versus Support
- Appeal to Force Argumentum Baculum
- Appeal to Pity Ad Misericordiam
- Appeal to Consequence Argumentum ad Consequentium
- Appeal to Popularity Ad Populum
- Prejudicial Language
Fallacies of Distraction
Argumentum ad Ignorantum: Argument from Ignorance, Burden of Proof
X has not been shown to be false, therefore X is assumed to be true; or X has not been shown to be true, therefore X is assumed to be false.
Argument: God exists because god has never been shown not to exist. Or, to the contrary, god does not exist because god has not been shown exist.
Rebuttal: It may be true that a god exists or does not exist. The crux of this problem is that we can’t be sure because we need more information than what is provided in the preceding statements.
Negatives, like god does not exist, cannot be proven. The Burden of Proof lies on the theists to prove the positive—that a god exists. A negative cannot be proven because if something is absent it would not be there to prove its absence. Therefore, god’s presence must be shown. Because something has not been shown to be wrong or right, or correct or incorrect, it cannot be assumed that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. We just may not have found it yet. Until we find the evidence however, it makes as much sense to believe there is a god, as it does to believe Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy exist (that’s a holy trinity, of lies and deceit, if there ever was one).
see A Sound Argument for Non-Existence? and Proving a Negative
The “evidence” presented thus far by theists is the topic of much debate and a large portion of this site examines the evidence, or more appropriately examines their words. The “evidence” presented by theologians are essentially philosophical statements, that is words, not data. Their words and specifically their logic will be confronted here. Their words are their “proof” for existence because a god has yet to show its face*. An examination of their words, in place of material proof, is what rid.com examines, in order to show they are fallacious. In turn, if the god presented, in words is fallacious, then the god presented does not exist. (see Incomprehensible at Other Problems page)
*As an aside, stating that: the vastness and mysteries of the universe, including life on earth and its diversity and complexity, or conversely, the simplicity and wonder of it all, is proof of a supreme being’s presence takes us to another logical fallacy: Missing the Point: Question Begging
An argument that concludes if X occurs or is true then it will lead to a single or series of negative results.
Argument: Atheists, with no set of moral standards, are often miscreants that believe in anarchy and if their philosophy grows it will lead to more lawlessness and eventually to civil war and a destruction of the family.
Rebuttal: Are any of these events the direct or indirect result of the philosophy of atheism or are they due to other factors? Haven’t religious beliefs caused a great deal of trouble (not to mention much more documented harm than atheism has ever done)? And why the bad ending? Rationalism could lead to a more stable and civil society where people think instead of jump to conclusions and believe. [It so happens, that from prison and population surveys, the atheist population outside of jail is larger than it is in jail. So the atheist population is underrepresented and theist population is over-represented in prison. So who is more likely to have “morals”?]
False Dilemma Black and White thinking
There are many possibilities, but they are overlooked for a limited number by presenting either-or statements, most often, if X then Y and not Z. Y is an irrelevant and/or negative consequence (i.e. dilemma). Also if not X then Z being another possibility.
Argument: One god exists and it’s a male because the Bible says god created man in His image. To believe anything else would be wrong, and ignorant paganism that would lead to belief in all sorts of wrong things that would increase man’s inhumanity to man.
Rebuttal: Options ‘Z’: There could be many gods rather than one. God could also be female, hermaphroditic or asexual. Lastly, god-forbid, there is a possibility of no god or gods at all. The ‘belief in wrong things, paganism, and inhumanity’ rambling is an example of the false dilemma Y that would face us if we were to opt out of X for the possibility of Z.
X and Y are to be accepted or rejected together, rather than separately, because they are set-up as one statement/argument. However, one or both of the proposals can be rejected or accepted; and accepting one statement needn’t mean the other has to be accepted.
Argument: God exists because X “and” Y.
Rebuttal: We can believe a god did X and Y, or X or Y. However, it is not necessary to post-it a god into the equation. X could be explained by other means— alternatives to supernatural “explanations.”
Missing the Point
Question Begging : Petito Principii, Circular reasoning
Assuming that the conclusion is true without evidence. The conclusion is used in the premise which states that the conclusion is true.
Argument: God exists because…X
Rebuttal: God does not exist because of proposition X or someone’s statement that “god exists.” God and X can be separate in themselves. So their existence, or truth, can be shown to be mutually exclusive. The existence of X may be explained by means that don’t need supernatural intervention, or it may not be known what causes X so a supernatural cause is assumed. Testimonials are not evidence of a god’s existence, only of someone’s convictions and perceptions of what they think to be true. Evidence of god would be the being of a god itself, not supposed examples or relics of its presence or rather absence. The example X is proof of X not a god.
This fallacy and the argument above are examined in greater detail elsewhere on this site. Many of the arguments for a god’s existence are based on this fallacy.
*(continued from Argument from Ignorance) We are equally justified in making the same assumptions and saying that all we see can be explained without having to interject a god or gods into the equation—that what we see is what we get thanks to nothing other than the laws and disorder of the universe. Close examination of the how and why of the world around us by reason and science explains a great deal more than the fables and conjecture of archaic religious beliefs that have past their uselessness of explaining the world, although there is some value to be found in some of the allegory not to mention its entertainment value. However, there are much better works of literature to be found. The art of story telling and discussing various philosophies on civil tranquility and rules of conduct has come a long way since the printing of so called holy books. Speaking of holy books, circularity also occurs here: (1) Holy book X states it is without error, and/or the word of a god. (2) Whatever holy book X states is absolutely true. (3) Therefore, holy book X is without error, and/or the word of a god. 2/3 are circular.
Person X attacks a dummy/straw man summary of person Y’s argument (even a weaker version of Y’s argument), missing the point of person X’s argument.
Example: The things you have on rid.com are nonsense. You won’t see god and you can’t see god because the things that you are writing are stupid, like the ‘incomprehensible’ section of the ‘problems’ page, which states that because we can’t know god, He might as well not exist. “Might as well” implies that He might so therefore He does exist. And the Bible says that god is great and All powerful, so that’s what He is.
The point and reasoning of the argument is overlooked and written off as stupid. The “might as well” is used as a dummy, ignoring the grounds that not being able to understand/incomprehensible is that same as saying it is impossible to know, so therefore it can’t be said that god exists or does not exist because this is unknowable on the grounds of the statement god is transcendent (proposition 2). This is the case of Agnosticism (or negative atheism) whereby we cannot know. Positive atheism states we can and do know: if a. there is no evidence or inadequate evidence of something and b. there should be evidence for it if it does exist then c. it does not exist.
Motives versus Support
Appeal to Force: Argumentum Baculum
A threat is used to compel someone to believe a proposition in place of support.
Argument: If you don’t believe in god you will burn in Hell.
Appeal to Pity: Ad Misericordiam
This involves showing that we should believe proposition X, not because of the evidence for X, but because you should feel sorry for what surrounds X.
This is often used in child abduction and natural disaster cases, which are always emotional and we always feel sympathetic for the victims and families: Help us pray during this time of tragedy, your prayers will help ensure a resolution to this sad state of affairs. If prayer worked then the victims would always recover or have happy endings because prayer is being used to try to affect the outcome for the best. However, prayer seems to be as hit-and-miss as no prayer at all in changing outcomes, as if random and therefore useless other than being emotionally comforting for some individuals.
Appeal to Consequences: Argumentum ad Consequentium
Similar to the argument of a false dilemma, but the dilemma is presented as a consequence Y (often negative) that will occur if we are to believe the proposition X, rather than predicament Y that we might find ourselves in if X is true. X results in consequence Y, versus the false dilemma of if X then Y.
Appeal to Popularity: Ad Populum
Using the popularity or acceptance of A or B in place of support or evidence.
Argument: The overwhelming majority of people believe in a god or gods, only give or take 10% do not believe in god, so a god must exist.
Rebuttal: Humans believe a lot of things because they are popular, but eventually many of these “self-evident and popular facts” are shown to be false: the earth is the center of the universe, its flat, and the sun revolves around the earth. There are a myriad more, a great many of which can be found in what started as being labeled ‘truth’ and eventually found themselves in the category of “superstition.”
Preaching to the choir with positive and negative adverbs to drive home the proposition.
Example: The social ills and evils of godless communism will never end until the freedom of unrestrained capitalism replaces the blatant ignorance of such an idiotic philosophy. Also, Atheists are a bunch of no-good idiots that just don’t understand what it is to know god because they are ignorant. Lastly, the atrocious acts of 9-11 will go down in history as the worst example of man’s inhumanity to man and we will wage war from this day forward to bring the destruction of terrorism to pass, “you are either for us or against us.”